- The Artist
We returned home from our Western tour in the beginning of September and immediately got hit by hurricane Ida! With little electricity, no Internet, no stores or civilization all we could do was continue to pack and prepare for our departure to Africa just a couple of weeks later.
Using several decades of experience, early in 2020 we had rescheduled our 2020 African Safari with our friends to 2021. This enabled us to take advantage of the annual reservations we have been holding each year for the past 10 years ! Despite an incredible amount of risk and unknown circumstances, we felt the time was right, and all of our friends were itching for adventure. Although there were almost a dozen points at which positive COVID tests, or other COVID related complications could have disrupted our entire Safari, we had one of the most interesting and memorable safaris of our lives. Certainly COVID has changed travel and life in Africa. However, our African friends ,as well as everyone else in Africa ,were so grateful that we demonstrated the fortitude to come- that everyone went overboard to make sure we had a safe and wonderful experience. COVID testing, although certainly scary, turned out to be easier in Africa than it was in the United States. Although, at one point in Botswana, Jim had to hire a helicopter to fly a nurse into the African bush to administer our tests to enter Zimbabwe.
Certainly some things were changed and old adventures and restaurants we loved were no longer possible to visit. But it's the nature of Africans to persevere through anything and their spirit was evident everywhere we went. Most of our typical adventures were easy to still do an even easier since most of the airports, and towns were very uncrowded. Of course the animals didn't know there was a pandemic on, so the wildlife was everywhere. Our group was incredibly generous, well-traveled, and pretty hilarious as well, so we had lots of good conversation, laughs and appreciation of the magic of Africa surrounding us.
Every Safari it seems we have unique, new experiences with a different wild animal. You can never predict what you're going to see on Safari and definitely not be able to count on seeing any specific animal in the wild. This year, it seemed" Rhinos" wanted to be the star of our safari. While in past years we have been lucky enough to see one or two white rhinos, this year we had close to a dozen up close and personal experiences with both, white and black rhinos! We experienced our first rhino charge and even managed to video it . We were lucky enough to have one of Jim's oldest friends on the safari with us as well as some friends that have been trying to go with us for several years, so finally getting back to Africa after missing 12 months was especially gratifying for us.
We had wonderful experiences with our bushman friends who have such a strong immune system they are pretty COVID proof. Grasslands Lodge purchased three rhinos last year – a male and two females in a few months ago the females both had calves, So we were treated to an awful lot of rhino family fun. Actually we got a little too close at one point and " Poppa rhino", decided he might have to RAM our vehicle to protect his family. Luckily, at the last minute our guide floored it and avoided a collision by only a couple of feet. What a thrill that was since he would've crashed into our vehicle about 2 feet lower than my seat!
We were treated to wonderful kazoo sendoffs, some great fishing, and staying at the new Duma Tau luxury lodge which was quite a treat. Gourmet dining, incredible accommodations in huge, three room tents with plunge pools and private decks overlooking the Linyatti waterway made for a very memorable Safari.( Not to mention a huge male elephant eating fruit off of our tent roof and keeping us from going to bed a couple of times)
In Victoria Falls,our friends got to see ARTS FOR ANIMALS in action and meet some of our scholarship recipients and students we work with. We were lucky enough to be there for the full moon and even got to see a rare lunar rainbow! Canoeing the Zambezi River, visiting the elephant preserve, watching black rhinos feed, and relax in mud pits a few feet away, and visit the wonder of Victoria Falls itself rounded out our adventure.
We escorted our group of friends back to Johannesburg for a wonderful farewell dinner at the Africa Rock Hotel and then returned the next day to Victoria Falls to work with our wildlife conservation programs. Our ARTS FOR ANIMALS programs changed focus from wildlife conservation to supporting local vaccination programs and helping our staff and supporters continue to live. Although we did teach at a few schools, Jim and I focused on training conservation educators to use our programs and materials in outreach programs at local schools and community development projects.
After spending an additional week in Zimbabwe, we returned to South Africa and flew up to Kruger Park to work with our partner, Timbavati Foundation visiting local schools and community development projects in villages near the park.
Needless to say, after being away from home for almost 3 months, we were ready to relax and recharge for a bit.
We ended the year in a very quiet note since Jim had to have his hip replaced at the end of December. He was quite okay with it since he feels like he got a good 73 years of hard and fun use out of the old one. in 2022, we are looking forward to seeing some of our friends around the United States and taking on a new, slower and more appreciative attitude toward our lives.